For Jessie, a student from Colorado, going on a Service Learning Tour to Peru was a life-changing experience. “It was indescribable,” she says, recalling the deep connections she formed with the country and local community members. “You can read about a place in school, but actually being able to immerse yourself in the traditions and cultures is so much more rewarding.”
After exploring some of the country’s iconic sites—including Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley—Jessie and her group joined a community in Pumamarca and got started on their service project. There, they helped build a greenhouse for a woman who was trying to send her children to college. “Now she can sell flowers and make an income of her own,” Jessie explains. “She just needed a little bit of help to get there.”
From laying bricks to putting on the roof, Jessie and her group truly made a hands-on difference. “We felt like we were building something that was sustainable and would last for years, and would help people come out of poverty and better themselves.”
Jessie was also amazed by the sense of community she felt. She bonded with the local workers (also volunteers) and was touched when a group of school children stumbled upon them and began to help—without even being asked. “It’s something you don’t really find over here in America,” she says. “Most people say ‘hi’ to their neighbors once in a while, but over there, everyone is so united and wants to help each other.”
Jessie also became close with a local couple who was working in the kitchen. She learned “they had grown up in places where there wasn’t running water or plumbing, or any of the accommodations we view as basic necessities.” Yet, they had worked hard throughout their lives—and now they were determined to save enough money to send their child to college. By listening to their stories, Jessie was able to broaden her understanding of the different ways people live as well as the challenges they can face. “It makes you grateful for what you have,” she says.
Plus, this experience helped Jessie realize the role she wants to play in the global community; she wants to help those who haven’t had the same opportunities as she. She wants to become a doctor and work for Doctors Without Borders, where she can help make an impact all over the world. “Being [in Peru] made me feel like I was part of something bigger,” she explains. “It isn’t about feeling pity. It’s about the love for making a difference in someone’s life—and knowing there are no barriers when there is love to unite people.”
Want to make a difference yourself? See all of our Sevice Learning Tours here.